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General Category => All Grain Brewing => Topic started by: tmaurer on July 25, 2010, 12:23:53 AM

Title: Increasing efficiency
Post by: tmaurer on July 25, 2010, 12:23:53 AM
I know the subject of efficiency comes up a lot, but I have a few questions.  I enjoy 70% efficiency on most brews.  I would like to increase that some.  During the next few months, I plan on brewing 3 beers around the same gravity to work on my efficiency.

I here there are three things I can easily do to increase efficiency: crush my grains a little smaller, eliminate dead space in the mashtun, and mash out and/or sparge (I batch sparge) with hotter water.  Getting a finer crush is easy.  But what do they mean when they say eliminate dead space?  Are they referring to the space between the grain bed and the cooler lid?  Or are they talking more about reducing wort losses in your system (I loose about a quart to a quart1/2)?

Lastly, I've always been confused about sparge water temps.  Some people just say they sparge with a certain temperature of water.  So is it OK to use one single temperature sparge water for all brews?  Shouldn't I be worried about raising the grain bed to a certain temperature?  And using one standard sparge water temp may not work every time?
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: tom-r2 on July 25, 2010, 03:32:08 PM
The dead space is the areas where the grain bed doesn't get rinsed well. If your sparge water flows down a track , say along the side of the cooler and misses flowing past all of the grain, the sugary wart from those areas will be missed and you will be throwing it out with the grains. You may have to experiment with your setup to get it right. You have to make sure that all of the grains get properly rinsed. That way you maximize the efficiency and get all of that sweet goodness into the brewkettle.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: denny on July 25, 2010, 03:33:56 PM
Lastly, I've always been confused about sparge water temps.  Some people just say they sparge with a certain temperature of water.  So is it OK to use one single temperature sparge water for all brews?  Shouldn't I be worried about raising the grain bed to a certain temperature?  And using one standard sparge water temp may not work every time?

IME, it's just not that big a deal to hit an exact temp.  I almost never hit what would be called a "mashout" temp.  I simply use sparge water in the 185-190 range (every time, no changes) to increase the temp of my grain to whatever before I run off the sparge.  This encourages conversion to complete.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: denny on July 25, 2010, 03:34:37 PM
The dead space is the areas where the grain bed doesn't get rinsed well. If your sparge water flows down a track , say along the side of the cooler and misses flowing past all of the grain, the sugary wart from those areas will be missed and you will be throwing it out with the grains. You may have to experiment with your setup to get it right. You have to make sure that all of the grains get properly rinsed. That way you maximize the efficiency and get all of that sweet goodness into the brewkettle.

Since he's batch sparging, channeling won't be an issue.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: mrcceo on July 25, 2010, 03:45:46 PM
You can also try:
Longer mash times. (90 Minutes)
Higher water to grain ratio ( Up to 2:1)
pH testing and adjustments.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: hopfenundmalz on July 25, 2010, 03:55:55 PM
Good advice all around.

Want to say that pH is one thing to look into.  I have seen graphs that show the efficiency dropping off very quickly if the pH is above 5.7.  The optimum was at 5.2.  The graph did not extend below 5.2, so I don't have a clue what happens if you go below 5.2.

Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: jaicmac on July 25, 2010, 07:36:36 PM
I'd add: look to water chemistry (John Palmer's  howtobrew.com website, chaper 15)
You want 100 ppm of calcium in the mash water for many brews.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: lazydog79 on July 25, 2010, 10:27:53 PM
My two cents: If you are getting a consistent efficiency and a good product, consider leaving your system alone.  My opinion is that is more important.  For awhile, I got obsessed with my efficiency and started crushing pretty fine. Sure I got close to 80%, but I also created some PIA lauters!  I've got my system dialed in to a consistent 76% every time and no lautering troubles unless I have a lot of adjuncts or something (oh that CAP suuuccckedd!  >:( )  So, I have decided to leave well enough alone.  My plant isn't doing too bad.  I do need to work on water chemistry a little, though.  Like I said, just my two cents, if it's worth that!  8)
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: Malticulous on July 25, 2010, 11:26:02 PM
Have you read Kiaser's site?
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php/Understanding_Efficiency
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: tmaurer on July 26, 2010, 02:37:54 AM
Thanks everyone for the suggestions.  I also noticed with my last batch that with anything less than a 1.3 quart/pound ratio with my cooler that it is nearly impossible to get consistent temps in the grain bed.

I think I'll up my water to grist ratio a little and sparge with a little hotter water.

Another question would be batch sparging.  How fast should I be draining the mashtun?  I've heard everything from really slow to wide open.  Also, when I add sparge water, how long to I let it sit in there.  Some suggest 15 minutes, but other say simply stir... let settle for 5 minutes... and drain?
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: a10t2 on July 26, 2010, 03:23:37 AM
Another question would be batch sparging.  How fast should I be draining the mashtun?

As fast as you can; it won't make any difference.

Also, when I add sparge water, how long to I let it sit in there.  Some suggest 15 minutes, but other say simply stir... let settle for 5 minutes... and drain?

Only as long as you need to get the remaining sugars uniformly into solution. I stir nonstop for 2-3 minutes, then immediately start the runoff.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: MDixon on July 26, 2010, 11:09:54 AM
Since you are batch sparging, tilt that tun to drain ALL the liquid. Leaving it behind in batch sparging is like having $8-9 and putting a buck or two in the paper shredder.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: hopaddicted on July 26, 2010, 12:00:51 PM
How fast should I be draining the mashtun? 

I go as fast as it will go, I use a manifold so no fears, obviously a little more caution is warranted for a false bottom.

Also, when I add sparge water, how long to I let it sit in there.

I go with 15 minutes to ensure maximum gain of malty goodness. Less is probably fine, but a couple more minutes doesn't hurt anything. I throw my first mash water right on the burner while I'm sparging and it typically isn't boiling by the time I am ready to add my sparge water.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: denny on July 26, 2010, 03:32:21 PM
I go with 15 minutes to ensure maximum gain of malty goodness. Less is probably fine, but a couple more minutes doesn't hurt anything. I throw my first mash water right on the burner while I'm sparging and it typically isn't boiling by the time I am ready to add my sparge water.

There's really nothing to gain by letting it sit.  At least for me.  I've tried from 30 min. to no time and it's all the same.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: dhacker on July 26, 2010, 04:33:32 PM
I simply use sparge water in the 185-190 range (every time, no changes) to increase the temp of my grain to whatever before I run off the sparge. This encourages conversion to complete. 

Something similar that popped into my head last week when brewing the Old Jubilation which had a grain bill that required every drop I could eek out of the HLT, and I was real close to undershooting my mash temp. How far into a mash can you go and still be able to raise the temp enough not to have a wort too high in fermentables?

Example: Target mash temp is 152 . . you mash in and find out you're @ 148 but have no hot water left in the HLT. How long do you have to get some more water ready to raise the temp before you've passed the window of opportunity to raise  the mash temp for the desire conversion?   
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: EHall on July 26, 2010, 04:42:17 PM
I've done that a couple of times... I just throw about 1/2gal of water in a smaller pan and boil it, I can usually boil it in less than 15min... then pour a bit at a time in the MT stir and take a temp until I get it where I want it... I'm not sure about the time threshold, but I'd have to guess anything less than a 1/2hr isn't going to harm anything...
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: timmyr on August 07, 2010, 11:39:23 PM
Have you read Kiaser's site?
http://braukaiser.com/wiki/index.php/Understanding_Efficiency

+1  I typically hit about 80% and was trying to lower it in effort to ensure no issues with over-sparging.  Then I figured, hey, as long as I am consistent, I'll leave it alone.  I batch sparge and take lots of notes.  I'd say if you hit 70% all the time...you are good to go.  Brewing Classic Styles basis all their recipes on 70%. 
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: bschwoer on August 28, 2010, 11:43:43 PM
IME, it's just not that big a deal to hit an exact temp.  I almost never hit what would be called a "mashout" temp.  I simply use sparge water in the 185-190 range (every time, no changes) to increase the temp of my grain to whatever before I run off the sparge.  This encourages conversion to complete.

Be careful with your water temperatures during sparging.  You do want a higher water temp because it helps the wort flow better (lowers viscosity making the fluid flow easier).  However, when you exceed 170 F you will begin to draw the tannin's (comes from grain husk) out of the grain and this leads to an off taste.  Several accredited sources recommend not exceeding 168 F to prevent the removal of tannin flavors from the grain.

During your mash, the ideal final temp is typically between 150-160 (depending on your grains).  These temps are what promote "conversion to complete" as they are what promote certain enzymatic activity that breaks the larger starch chains into smaller chain sugars for the yeast to process.  Going above these temps just promotes a lower viscosity for flow and washing.

I recommend "Brew Chem 101: The Basics of Homebrewing Chemistry" for some good information on basic chemistry that will provide guidance on pH (as another post mentioned) as well as the importance of temperature among other tidbits.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: gordonstrong on August 29, 2010, 02:45:54 PM
Quote
Be careful with your water temperatures during sparging.  You do want a higher water temp because it helps the wort flow better (lowers viscosity making the fluid flow easier).  However, when you exceed 170 F you will begin to draw the tannin's (comes from grain husk) out of the grain and this leads to an off taste.  Several accredited sources recommend not exceeding 168 F to prevent the removal of tannin flavors from the grain.

You need temps above 170F AND pH above 6 to extract tannins from grain. And those are the conditions that have to exist in contact with the grain, not measured someplace else.  If you don't monitor your pH, then keeping your sparge water capped at 168F is a good idea.  If you treat your sparge water so that it's less than 6, it doesn't matter what temperature you use (as far as tannins are concerned).

You boil (212F) decoctions without getting tannins.  Why?  Because your mash pH is probably around 5.3. 
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: bluesman on August 29, 2010, 03:03:13 PM
When considering increasing efficiency there are several things to consider.  Assuming the use of a fully modified malt one must take into consideration the crush and by that I mean exposing all of the starch within the grain while not destroying the integrity of the husk.  That can be done by milling your grain with a millgap setting between .035 and .040.

As others have already indicated keeping the mash pH (5.2 is ideal) in check is vital.  I use pH strips for checking the pH.  The type of grain and water chemistry will have an impact on pH.  There are some great books available that discuss this in great detail.

Mash tun and grain bed geometry will effect the run off.  I use a rectangular cooler and typically acheive between 75 and 80% efficiency.  Round coolers also work well.

Lautering.  Get the sugar out...all of it.  I use a Coleman Ultimate Extreme which has a recessed pocket below the tun floor which allows for all of the wort to drain from the tun.  Some say the color is also important...red vs. blue but the jury's still out on that one.   ;D
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: denny on August 29, 2010, 04:15:13 PM
IME, it's just not that big a deal to hit an exact temp.  I almost never hit what would be called a "mashout" temp.  I simply use sparge water in the 185-190 range (every time, no changes) to increase the temp of my grain to whatever before I run off the sparge.  This encourages conversion to complete.

Be careful with your water temperatures during sparging.  You do want a higher water temp because it helps the wort flow better (lowers viscosity making the fluid flow easier).  However, when you exceed 170 F you will begin to draw the tannin's (comes from grain husk) out of the grain and this leads to an off taste.  Several accredited sources recommend not exceeding 168 F to prevent the removal of tannin flavors from the grain.

As Gordon pointed out, pH is at least as important, if not more so, than temp.  After all, you boil the grains in a decoction and no one talks about "tannin extraction" there!   Also, Kai Troester has done experiments with room temp sparge water and found no loss of efficiency or other detriments by doing that.  It seems there are many homebrew "rules" that have been repeated over and over that fall when they are subjected to testing and experimentation.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on August 29, 2010, 08:08:26 PM
I wouldn't recommend trying to crush grains any finer... it usually doesnt get you a lot, and most times it just ends up in astringency/stuck sparges if you're not careful.

I just switched from a bazooka screen to a stainless braid (in a 10-gal Gott cooler) and went from 60% to 79% efficiency on the first brew with it (today). Maybe it was a fluke, but I'd like to think I did it on purpose...

...even though I didn't account for it in the recipe and now need to buy another package of yeast...
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: Malticulous on August 30, 2010, 01:52:52 PM
Get 85% consistently by breaking many of Denny's rules. I mash around 1.3qt per lb, mashout and double batch sparge. If I just single sparge with no mashout I expect closer to 80%. I have monitored pH and found a little calcium chloride is enough to keep it in cheak. I crush it with a barley crusher at the stock gap and use a Coleman extreme 52qt MLT.

Some will say that 85% is not good for the beer. I like my beer and it scores fine in competitions. Others will say the mashout infusion and splitting up the sparge is too much added work for the 3-5% gain. It's not very much more work. Granted, it only saves me about a dollar per batch. I brew enough that it adds up.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: denny on August 30, 2010, 04:06:57 PM
Some will say that 85% is not good for the beer. I like my beer and it scores fine in competitions. Others will say the mashout infusion and splitting up the sparge is too much added work for the 3-5% gain. It's not very much more work. Granted, it only saves me about a dollar per batch. I brew enough that it adds up.

OTOH, I get an average 85% with a single sparge and usually no mashout.  Whatever works for you.  I brew about every other week, so at $26/year, saving a dollar per batch wouldn't make much difference to me.
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: Malticulous on August 30, 2010, 07:42:16 PM
I have no desire to change yor ways Denny, just saying your way is not the only way.  ;)
Title: Re: Increasing efficiency
Post by: denny on August 30, 2010, 09:19:02 PM
I have no desire to change yor ways Denny, just saying your way is not the only way.  ;)

As I well know!  I encourage everyone to use whatever methods and techniques give them the results they want and the enjoyment they deserve!